Special investigation: 11 influential leaders accused of fueling Aguok-Apuk conflict in Gogrial
About 11 influential officials have been inciting the Aguok and Apuk clans to fight in a bid to either achieve political or tribal interests in Gogrial state, according to investigations carried out by Radio Tamazuj.
Gogrial, home state of President Kiir, is inhabited by Aguok, Apuk, Awan-Chan, Awan-Mou and Kuac-Ayok clans. The state came into existence after Kiir issued an order in October 2015 to divide up South Sudan and create new states.
The investigation, which includes testimonies from Gogrial's citizens and observers, found that four influential officials from Apuk community were implicated in the long running conflict with Aguok, an accusation they denied.
Multiple sources alleged that Governor Gregory Deng Kuac, the brother-in-law of President Kiir, Ambrose Riiny Thiik, chairman of the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), Peter Mading Duor, former police commissioner, and Salva Mathok Gengdit, a prominent politician, have been inciting a wave of attacks against Aguok.
The same sources claimed that seven influential figures from the Aguok clan have been fueling the running feud with Apuk, pointing out that Makiir Gai, a renowned business tycoon, Tor Deng Mawien, President Kiir’s adviser on decentralization, Achiec Kuot, a senior security officer, Akot Maluth, a police commissioner, Mayar Deng Mayar, former minister of infrastructure, Lual Deng Kuel, a legislator in Juba, and Santino Akot Abiem, former deputy governor of Gogrial state, have been inciting the inter-communal conflict.
A politician, who preferred anonymity, said the inter-communal violence between the Apuk and Aguok communities is being incited by some politicians and military officials who hail from the area.
Governor Gregory Deng
The politician outright accused the incumbent governor of Gogrial state Gregory Deng Kuach of supplying firearms illegally to his Apuk community, claiming that Gregory has been working hard to divide the two communities since he was a commissioner in 2003.
Another source claimed that Governor Gregory is now commanding a group of militia known as Titweng in the area, alleging that some firearms collected during a disarmament exercise were given to the Titweng militia by Gregory.
He pointed out that Governor Gregory had suspended the disarmament exercise and gave the collected firearms to civilians.
The former governor of the defunct Warrap state Nyandeng Malek pointed out that the governor of Gogrial Gregory Deng Kuach could be implicated in the Apuk- Aguok conflict.
“Even if he has no any direct involvement in the conflict, actually this problem started in 2004 when Gregory was a commissioner for Gogrial East and the fighting intensified after he became the governor, so for this reason many people may think that he is involved in the conflict,” she said.
Ambrose Riiny Thiik
Ambrose Riny Thiik, chairperson of the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders, a lobby group that informally advises President Kiir, has been accused of being biased when narrating the history of the Aguok-Apuk conflict since 1954.
Multiple sources claimed that Ambrose Riiny is fueling the inter-communal conflict between the two communities in order to demand a separate state for Apuk.
A political party leader, who preferred anonymity, revealed that President Kiir became agitated by Ambrose’s demand for a separate state for Apuk during a meeting at the presidential palace also known as J1 in the past two months.
The former information minister in Gogrial, Ariec Mayar Ariec, accused intellectuals of Apuk and Aguok communities of inciting the two sides to fight.
Peter Mayen Majongldit, leader of the People’s Liberal Party (PLP), said that the dispute between the two communities of Aguok and Apuk dates back to 1970s, while accusing the SPLM leaders in Gogrial of putting their personal interest first instead of prioritizing the interest of citizens.
“If officials both in the SPLM and SPLA were not behind the Apuk-Aguok conflict, then why did they fail to resolve the long running conflict?” He asked.
Salva Mathok and Lual Deng
A citizen, who preferred anonymity, said the long running conflict between the two clans was being fueled by prominent politicians like Salva Mathok whom he accused of coordinating supply of guns and ammunition to Apuk. He also accused MP Laul Deng of facilitating supply of arms to the Aguok community.
Gogrial’s former security adviser, Mou Madut, said the two feuding clans are not the problem but those who represent them have been disseminating inflammatory messages.
He accused the former deputy governor Santino Akot Abiem and his former commissioners of inciting violence after being removed.
Mou also accused the former deputy governor of leaking highly sensitive information of the state government to the media through Simon Machuar, a young man who claims to be the Gogrial youth leader in Juba.
The former governor of Warrap state, Nyandeng Malek, said all Warrap politicians should be blamed for the killings of innocent people from the Aguok and Apuk clans.
Makiir Gai Thiep
Several people accused Makiir Gai Thiep who is a renowned business tycoon from the Aguok community of involvement in the conflict for allegedly providing funds to a militia group known as Machar Anyar to fight against Apuk people.
For his part, Governor Gregory Deng Kuach denied all accusations that he had suspended the disarmament exercise. “I did not stop the disarmament when I came in. I was saying that the disarmament exercise should continue, so I did not stop it,” said Gregory.
Gregory accused Brig. Achiec Kuot, a national security sent from Juba, of stopping the disarmament exercise in Gogrial last year. He pointed out that the national security officer had ordered all forces deployed between Apuk and Aguok areas to leave to Wau.
“When Achiec was asked he claimed that he was ordered by the director general of national security Akol Kur to deploy the national security force to Wau,” he said.
Gregory also accused the former deputy governor Santino Akot and Aguok community leader Makiir Gai of ordering the Aguok youth to shoot him when he visits Aguok areas.
“I don’t want to visit the areas of Apuk clan because people will say that I am taking guns to Apuk, so this is the reason why I cannot pay any visit to the two communities,” said Gregory.
Governor Gregory revealed that the Aguok clan has formed a militia group known as Machar Anyaar, while the Apuk clan formed a militia group known as Titweng. However, Gregory denied reports that he was commanding the Titweng militia.
“I cannot command a militia group when I am the head of SPLM/A in the state, “he said.
The top state official admitted that the firearms found their way into the hands of civilians after the removal of the two commissioners of Awan and Aguok West Counties. He accused the two commissioners of opening stores to the public.
Governor Gregory described those who accuse him of inciting the two feuding clans of Aguok and Apuk to fight as “spoilers.”
Meanwhile, Makiir Gai denied all accusations levelled against him which include reports that he had ordered Aguok youth to shoot Gregory when he goes to Aguok areas.
“What was said is untrue. Governor Gregory is my father-in-law because I have married his daughter, so it is not true,” he said.
The business tycoon denied the existence of Machar Anyar militia in the areas of Aguok saying he is a community leader, and not a militia commander.
The two clans of Aguok and Apuk have reportedly been fighting over border disputes, grazing land and water points in Gogrial state.